10.16.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! Monica, Nancy, Michael and I are headed to LA today and would love your prayers!
Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
WWJP: “What would Jesus Post?” (Bracelets coming soon) #johnston (Haha!)
Your praise is contagious – So is your complaint. What are you carrying today? #furtick
God isn’t nearly as concerned about what we’re doing for Christ as He is committed to forming Christ inside us. #voskamp
“If your life does not worship God, your lips do not worship God either.” #Tozer
 
 
FYI:
 
 
 
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
The Scary Truth About What is Hurting Our Children by Becky Mansfield (Blog post but some good data.)
Genius Ways Companies get Kid to Do Their Marketing for Them by Caroline Moore (Interesting!)
3 Vital Tips for Leading Discussion in Small Groups by Trey Gilmore (You know this but still good!)
What the Future of Leadership Looks Like by Tim Elmore

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/70470/the-one-who-died-for-all?utm_source=WorshipHouse%20Media%20–%20Around%20the%20House%20(CD%20Update)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=spot1-2249484&utm_campaign=nl-10/11/2017-2249484
(I’m playing this at training! Zo and Jon… start learning your moves!!
 
 
Here are 2 just for you:
 

Alarm Bells for Leaders

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  (Galatians 6:7-10)

We can’t pull a fast one on God. He sees all and cannot be deceived. He notices our shortcuts and also our efforts when we do well. To ensure that we live by this truth, seek others to hold you accountable and act as your “alarm bells.” Invite others to ask you tough questions, such as the following:

  • Is my personal walk with God up-to-date?
  • Am I keeping my priorities straight?
  • Am I asking myself the hard questions?
  • Am I accountable to someone in authority?
  • Am I sensitive to what God is saying to the whole body of Christ?
  • Am I over-concerned with building my image?
  • Do I put more stock in “events” rather than “process”?
  • Am I a loner in my leadership and personal life?
  • Am I aware and honest about my weaknesses?
  • Is my calling constantly before me?
Learning to Lead Like Jesus
 
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52
Learning to lead like Jesus is a lifetime journey that begins with humility. “Better to say I am learning, than to say, I have learned,” wise and humble words indeed from Dr. Charles Stanley spoken to me and several staff members at First Baptist of Atlanta in the late 1980’s. As a young pastor, this seasoned leader helped me understand to first follow the Lord Jesus by continuing to learn and grow. For example, don’t say “I’ve learned to be a patient leader”, rather, “I’m learning to be a patient leader”. This reminded me to be a humble, teachable and ever-growing leader who is desperately in need of God’s grace to carry out my responsibilities.
Learning to lead like Jesus is for leaders who desperately need the Holy Spirit’s direction, the Father’s wisdom and the Son’s encouragement. Leaders who are learning to first follow Jesus, learn well. Learning to lead is a lifelong education. We never graduate from Christ leadership school, but we do advance as we become wiser students through our own struggles, failures and successes.
“Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister, and call understanding your kinsman” (Proverbs 7:4).
Wise leaders are learners, but if they stop learning they cease to lead wisely. Leaders who learn ask the right questions, get the most accurate answers, and are able to make the wisest decisions. “How can I get out of the way as the leader, and support the team to be successful?” “How can our organization go from good to great by integrating and sustaining best practices?” The Lord can’t wait to pour out wisdom on earnest and humble hearts seeking to gain what only He gives.
James, the brother—who experienced first hand Jesus’ wise words and actions— defined wisdom in this way: “But the wisdom from above is first pure [morally and spiritually undefiled], then peace-loving [courteous, considerate], gentle, reasonable [and willing to listen], full of compassion and good fruits. It is unwavering, without [self-righteous] hypocrisy [and self-serving guile” (James 3:17, Amplified Bible).
Before Steve Jobs died, wouldn’t it have been wonderfully insightful and inspiring to ask him about the pinnacle of his creation: the Apple iPhone? Seriously, if we wanted understanding into the motivation for and the purpose of his world-changing invention, Steve would be the logical starting point. What was he thinking? What motivated his perfectionism? What was his vision?
In the same way, why not first seek wisdom from the Lord of creation whose majestic exclamation point was humanity—you and me? Doesn’t it make sense to learn how to think from the Divine who molded our mind? Understand how to care for our bodies from the One who perfectly meshed billions of unique cells into a living being? Or engage the heart of God to feel and express the emotions He embedded into our heart, soul and spirit? Wisdom from our Maker makes us more like Him and less like foolish inferior idols. We learn to lead like Jesus by looking to Jesus!
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me wisdom to learn to lead like Your son, in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Application: What specific area of my leadership needs to grow more into the likeness of Jesus?
Blessings, Kendall

10.16.17

3 Vital Tips for Leading Discussion in Small Groups by Trey Gilmore

youthspecialties.com

Youth ministry is coming to an era where small groups are vital to the success and longevity of students in ministry. They provide relationships for students, and if done well can create a bond of friends and a mentor (small group leader) who are inseparable. I recently realized that a lot of the success of the group depends on the leader’s ability to facilitate discussion. Some leaders are incredibly gifted at this and others really have to work at it. I’ve developed three huge tips for leading healthy and vital discussion in small groups.

1. BE INCREDIBLY INTENTIONAL ABOUT HOW YOU READ SCRIPTURE.

This may seem rather small and unimportant. But if students can’t understand any of the Scripture you are reading your entire discussion and study will be inadequate. What I mean by this is if you are reading the Bible in any context of your group, pay close attention to how they can focus on what you all are covering. I generally tell our leaders, never have students read one verse at a time in a circle. Because no one is listening, they are just staring at their verse waiting for their turn. It ends up completely futile, and most times leaders need to reread it for them to understand anyway.

Furthermore, if you have a student read the entire passage and its more than a few verses, remember 2 things.

  1. Make sure they can read well. I know it seems kind to include everyone in reading, but if a student is really struggling reading it is going to distract the whole group. It doesn’t mean exclude them, just have them engage in the study in a different way than reading the passage.
  2. Cut in during verses that are troublesome or take a timeout from the verses if there has been a lot said. Don’t just plow through 15 verses for the sake of getting it done, because most times students won’t remember anything because they are so blasted with information. If you want them to discuss and wrestle with the Scriptures you must be intentional about the delivery and form of how they will hear and understand it.

2. LEAD THE GROUP.

Don’t forget to be confident within the small group. Students want to see that you are confident AND passionate about the study and the students. If they can tell that you are just showing up, they won’t focus or engage nearly as well. Leading a small group is all about setting the tone and the environment for students to feel safe and comfortable. It creates an opportunity to share and grow together. You need to speak into the discussion as if you were a student yourself. When I lead a group, I almost always find a way to inject my own personal “wrestlings” within the discussion.

For example, if we talk about the friendship between David and Jonathan, I would say something in the discussion like: “I have a really hard time making close guy friends like Jonathan and David because I feel like no one values it or supports the idea of it. I just am personally struggling with the thought of how I can invite close guy friendships into my life…”

When you give a little bit of yourself to the group, students can realize that you are human just like them, and you aren’t this flawless, perfect, Bible-scholar of a robot. Because no one wants to be in a group with a perfect robot. The greatest thing that you have to offer in small groups is yourself.

3. ALLOW FOR PURPOSEFUL VARIANCE.

Now I know that “purposeful variance” may seem like an oxymoron, but stay with me here. Often times leaders will ask a question or want feedback from students in the group and you will have this student who just says something completely wrong or borderline heresy. Our instinct as leaders is to immediate cover up their wrong answer and correct them with the right one. By doing this, we don’t allow for students to wrestle and to question, we just shove answers down their throat. So allow for variance in that you allow a wrong answer and direct it to the thoughts of other students.

For example, Johnny answers the question “What do we have to do to receive the gift of salvation?” by saying “I think you just need to be a good person. You don’t really need to accept Jesus, but just live a good lifestyle.” Immediately in your brain, your red flag goes up, but here is how you handle this. You say “Hmm, well why do you say that?” and he will explain, then you say “Well what do you all think of that?”  Engage the entire group in wrestling with this.

It seems as Christian leaders, we are so fearful of being wrong or wrestling that we just brush it all under the rug when in reality we are dying to ask seemingly dumb questions or prod a concept deeper that no one wanted to let us talk about. When you engage the group in a conversation they are able to wrestle through it together, and they will take ownership of what they are learning and discussing as opposed to you just laying down the law on them. I’m not saying that you don’t instill any type of doctrine and solid theology in them, but don’t be so quick to grab the reigns and choke the variance that may be healthy for questioning students, especially high schoolers (You may have to be a little tighter with middle schoolers).

You can also allow variance by breaking the routine. Maybe you pick a certain student to read the passage or you let a quiet student know that he is going to have to answer this question in a few minutes. Don’t always assume that having everyone go around in a circle and answer is the best philosophy. Some internal processors are going to be terrified because they don’t have time to externalize their thoughts. Allow for the silence. Leave room in your group for the Holy Spirit to work in ways you would never have planned for or deemed imaginable. Loosen your grip on the schedule of the group, and allow variance, because it will truly allow students to feel open and vulnerable.

As a final word, please note that every small group is different! Gender, age, demographics, size, and leaders all can change the dynamic. But these three tips work for most groups you’ll encounter and have led to great success in any type of ministry I’ve been entrusted with. If you have other ideas/questions, I would love to know about them! Youth ministry is ALWAYS changing, and if we aren’t always learning we will fall behind.

10.09.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 
 
Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
We can only hope for what we desire. #cslewis
 
Your view about how the world will end affects how you live today. #furtick
 
The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances. #Elliot
 
If you are not entertaining God’s truth, you will be entertaining Satan’s lies. You do not have the option of a neutral mind. #Willard
 
 
FYI:
1. Videos that are free to download… https://thebibleproject.com (Thank you, Annie!)
 
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
What Do You Do When Your Self-Worth is Challenged? by Alex McElroy (Interesting thoughts on helping students with self esteem.)
Greater Leadership in Children’s Ministry by Dale Hudson
Biggest Changes Generation Z Brings to the Adult World by Tim Elmore
Every Kid is One Caring Adult Away From Being a Success Story by Josh Shipp
 

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:

A new youtube site with some great videos… https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmO1sDtd5024JJ7rBY7nWMg
Check out two of them…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBJFiMPTzM4
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtoevOdB7m0
 
 
Here are 2 just for you:
 
Growing a Greater Faith 

For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Luke 7:8-9

To the degree, I submit to authority is the extent to which my faith grows. For example, I may not agree with or even like the decision-making process at work, but I can still trust those who have authority over me. Trust is the highest form of relational health, with it I am able to gladly follow my superior’s lead, without it I struggle to stay loyal. Most of all, I can trust the Lord’s authority and by grace remain submitted to Him and His will with a spirit of humble, grateful faith. Pride bows up against being told what to do, but humility willingly submits, trusts and obeys. 

Remarkably, a Roman soldier who commanded 100 men found great favor in the eyes of the Lord. A non-Jewish protector of the people, with the full support of the Jewish elders– in the past this military leader leveraged his influence, resources, and man-power to construct the local synagogue. In today’s terms, the centurion helped build the local church, though he did not attend church. This man’s goodwill was not forgotten when his most valuable servant fell deathly ill. Motivated by gratitude, the religious leaders and friends asked Jesus to heal him. 

Jesus did. Why? Because of the great faith of the humble leader, “Say the word,” knowing a word from Christ can heal. This military man was familiar with giving commands and being under command. Since the centurion trusted and followed the authorities over him, so his subordinates had faith in his leadership. Jesus compliments the Roman leader’s faith and character as a model of what being under God’s sovereign power looks like. Great faith is the result of humble submission to authority with the fruit of obedience, gratitude, and generosity.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13).

Have you totally surrendered your life to the authority of Almighty God? The truth of His Word trumps other contemporary opinions. One indicator of submission to the Lord is submission to the authorities He has over your life: government, church, a work supervisor or your spouse. Even when you experience an unfair authority, you are called to carry yourself with the spirit of Christ. Your faith grows to the degree you trust that the Holy Spirit is at work–knowing your part is to remain faithful, especially in the small things. Humble submission grows great faith.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grow my faith to trust Your authority and the authorities You have placed over my life, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Application: To what authority do I need to totally surrender, trusting the Holy Spirit is at work?

 
Attitude Adjustment

For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.   Ezra 6:22

 

Attitude is everything; it can lift you up or bring you down. It is a barometer of your heart. If your heart is not right, your attitude will suffer. Attitude is critical because it influences your course of action. If your attitude is negative, your words and behavior will be too. There is a difference in being a realist about negative circumstances, and living with a chronic bad attitude. Naïve are those who ignore warning signs of trouble, and carry on oblivious to the storm clouds of sin.

However, your attitude is rooted in who you are in Christ, so there is no need to be fearful, guilty, or insecure. The attitude that Jesus exhibited was one of humility and servant leadership. His attitude reflected submission to His heavenly Father, which resulted in service, generosity, and love for people. Jesus was joyful and hopeful, because He rested in the will of God. Do not allow another’s bad attitude to influence yours. Be the attitude influencer instead. Greet a frown with a smile, crush criticism with affirmation, and listen patiently until fury loses its steam. A positive attitude will eventually outlast and overpower a negative one. Most of all, pray for those who thrive on negativity. Pray for them to be set free from their hurt, anger, guilt, and insecurity. God has you in their lives to reflect the Almighty and to encourage an attitude adjustment through Him.

God is the genesis of a right attitude, and He is the right attitude sustainer. He wants His attitude to be our attitude. This is why you need a daily attitude alignment from your heavenly Father. Each day, your attitude gets knocked around and abused by life. If left unattended, your attitude will drift into wrong thinking, harsh words, and bad behavior. Self-pity and anger can begin to replace selflessness and forgiveness. With just a little bit of daily tweaking, your attitude stays in line with His. It is subtle, but sometimes attitudes need to be adjusted moment by moment.

Lastly, slow down and pray when you feel your attitude eroding. When you’re in the midst of a bad attitude, don’t make important decisions; the time isn’t right for that. You will regret every decision you make during a time of emotional upheaval. Be patient, and wait until your anger has subsided, your heart is cleansed, and your attitude is objective. Almighty God is into attitudes that trust Him and reach out to others with compassion and understanding. Open-minded and reasonable attitudes lead to rich and robust relationships. Anyone can be negative; so don’t be anyone, be different. Allow God to shape your attitude on the anvil of His heart.

An attitude molded by God is infectious and transforming. Allow Him to change yours, and then trust Him to change another’s. The Bible says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5).

Post/Tweet today: Attitude is everything; it can lift us up or bring us down. It is a barometer of our heart. #wisdomhunters

Blessings, Kendall

10.02.17

Hi! Happy October!! OCTOBER????? Haha! I am praying for you right now! 
 
Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
Our job is to prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child. #elmore
When you feel stretched, it’s a setup for God’s strength. #furtick
Don’t worry about finding your purpose. If you are seeking after God, your purpose will find you. #evans
Being odd for the sake of Jesus is the highest of callings. It’s living an odd life marked by love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility and self-sacrifice. #fields
 
 
FYI:
1. 10 Things to Say When Your Child Says They Don’t Believe in God Anymore…
http://christianmomthoughts.com/10-things-to-say-when-your-child-says-they-dont-believe-in-god-anymore/#more-8114
 
2. Teen Trouble… https://www.heartlightministries.org/2017/09/teen-trouble-take-quiz/?utm_source=CC+Master+List&utm_campaign=70d98c1e72-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5926458580-70d98c1e72-126726953
3. 12 Prayers for when you are anxious by Max Lucado
 
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
4 Passionate Desires of a Good Leader’s Heart by Brandon Cox
Today’s Kids Are Not Yesterday’s Kids by Dale Hudson (Find your age group!! Memory lane!)
Seven Terms That Summarize Generation Z’s Mindset by Tim Elmore
Apps Stirring Up Trouble in Schools by Caroline Knorr (Yikes!)
 

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/26201/when-storms-come?utm_source=WorshipHouse%20Media%20–%20Around%20the%20House%20(CD%20Update)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=when_storms_come-2214110&utm_campaign=fp-08/31/2017-2214110
http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/69368/today-we-celebrate?utm_source=Christian%20Song%20Tracks%20(Final)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=today_celebrate-2215209&utm_campaign=fp-09/02/2017-2215209
 
 
Here are 2 just for you:

Great Leaders Live By Strong Convictions by Rick Warren

The real foundation of great leadership is character, not charisma. And one aspect of a leader’s character is the convictions to which he is deeply committed. Great leaders have strongly held beliefs. An opinion is something you’d argue about; a conviction is something you’d die for. Pastors, especially, must define the convictions for which they will endure every kind of hardship, and the only way to stand for those kinds of convictions is to live from a deep sense of God’s calling.

If God has called you to the task of leadership, nothing can stop you. Your identity rests in your relationship with him, not the approval of the people you are leading or the watching world around you. Instead of living in the comparison trap or the fear of what people will think, you must develop your convictions – theological, ethical, and practical – and stand by them.

Believe in advance that your convictions will be tested from at least eight angles:

1. Derision. When you’re in leadership, one of the first ways people will try to get you to deny your conviction is to make fun of you. Your convictions may very well be a punchline at times.

2. Discouragement. One of the enemy’s most powerful weapons is discouragement. Why? Because convictions, by their very nature, require courage to uphold. Discouragement usually comes at the halfway point when you’re halfway done with the project or halfway up the mountain.

3. Dread. Fear is one of the greatest threats to a leader’s convictions. I’ve often said, even when put on the spot by secular media personalities that I must fear God more than other people. It is to him alone that I will answer someday for how I stood by the deeply held beliefs he called me to possess.

4. Discord. Few things will stunt the growth of a movement or a church faster than gossip. One rumor or false accusation has the potential to destroy the reputation of a leader.

5. Division. It’s a big challenge for a leader to keep people together in a movement, but it’s essential. And since leadership is all about getting human beings to work together toward a common goal, this challenge is especially difficult for a leader to face.

6. Distractions. If the enemy can’t divide the people of a movement, he’ll provide distractions. Some of the distractions that cause the most problems aren’t bad things but rather good things that aren’t the best things.

7. Defamation. Paul was hounded by the Judaizers. Nehemiah had to deal with Sanballat. Jesus was falsely accused of blasphemy. It’s the pioneers out front who are most likely to get shot in the back. It’s a side effect of an expanding influence.

8. Danger. The Bible never actually promised believers a life “safe and secure from all alarms.” On the contrary, those who lead and have a voice will also suffer persecution and encounter danger along the way.

The enemy will try to use all eight of these tactics to top you from leading. What do you do in the face of such opposition? Don’t give up! Hold onto your convictions. Be persistent. Endure. When you are committed to your convictions, nothing will cause you to quit. And a “no quit” attitude is an essential characteristic of any great leader.

Heart of a Champion (One of my favorites!)

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”                      (1 Corinthians 9:25-27) (NIV)

There is an old saying: Champions don’t become champions in the ring – they are merely recognized there. Boxing is a good analogy for leadership development because it is all about daily preparation. Even if a person has natural talent, he has to prepare and train to become successful.

One of the most famous quotes of President Theodore Roosevelt uses a boxing analogy: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause.”

09.25.17

14 Characteristics of Incredible Small Group Leaders by Chase Snyder

youthspecialties.com

SPIRITUALLY MATURE

What right do you have leading others to Jesus if you are not following Him?

Small group leaders must be spiritually mature. Does this mean they have to be perfect? Of course not! Maturity doesn’t mean you are perfect. Maturity in Jesus means that you are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus through spiritual disciplines. Spiritually immature people are incapable of being spiritual leaders. The great news is that we can all, by the grace of Jesus and application of spiritual disciplines, grow spiritually.

ATTENTIVE

Great small group leaders are attentive to the needs, spiritual conditions and personalities of the people that they are serving. It isn’t enough for a small group leader to know the bible study material – they must know the people they are serving.

TRANSPARENT

Transparency is essential to building relationships. A relationship is essential for discipleship. Every person in your small group doesn’t need to know every aspect of your life. Instead, they need to know that you are a real person with real struggles. Groups that are transparent are led by a leader who is transparent.

PATIENT

Small group leaders are not responsible to “fix” people. There are too many negative ways you can take that statement so I will move on. Some leaders become increasingly frustrated that the students in their group aren’t maturing as quickly as others. Be patient. People are different. People come from different backgrounds. People have different stories.

PERSON OF INTEGRITY

This one is a no-brainer. Leaders have integrity. Without integrity, you lose influence. Integrity comes from practicing what you preach, both publicly and privately.

ENCOURAGER

People are willing to follow someone who encourages them. Everyone feels inadequate in some areas of their spiritual life. Encouraging your small group can be as simple as praying, sending text messages or remembering to follow up with a question.

RELATIONAL

The love for people is an essential characteristic of great small group leaders. The best small group leaders are actively participating in other’s lives.  The best small group leaders are not the greatest Bible teachers – they are often the best relational leaders.

POSITIVE

I find it hard to read the Bible and walk away with a negative attitude. God has repeatedly done the impossible for His people. Small group leaders need to approach their groups with a positive attitude. After all, God promises to provide for His people – both spiritually and relationally.

SERVANT

Jesus’ life exemplified the power present when we assume the role of a servant leader. Your small group doesn’t exist to serve you, but for you to serve them.

AVAILABLE

The most encouraging person can still make for a bad small group leader if he is unavailable to his group. Time and energy are essential to disciple others. Small group leaders understand that at times they will sacrifice their schedule to minister to their group.

INTENTIONAL

Spiritual growth doesn’t appear magically. Growth takes intentionality. It is a small group leader’s responsibility to intentionally lead each person in his or her group.

EXPECTANT

Do you believe that your group members can do incredible things to build the Kingdom of God? Healthy expectations can spur growth more so than wordsmithing a perfect open-ended question.

Each Jesus follower has been given spiritual gifts and talents to leverage in their mission to share the Gospel. Great leaders help their people set healthy expectations and paint a picture of what God may have for them in the near future.

ENTHUSIASTIC

Enthusiasm is contagious. It is important for you to enjoy spending time with your small group. The leader is the one who sets the pace for this. If you dread attending small group meetings, your group will dread it as well. Add elements that will connect the team to one another and spark their enjoyment for life and Jesus.

FACILITATOR

Your small group is not a platform. Your small group is not your audience. Don’t lecture to them for an hour. Be a leader that facilitates conversation. Facilitators steer the conversation without controlling the conversation. Facilitation, when done well, incorporates strong Biblical teaching and ensures there are practical steps for each person to walk away with.

09.18.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 

Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
If Jesus returns tomorrow, then tomorrow I’ll rest from my labor. But today I have work to do. #bonhoeffer
 
To focus on Jesus as just an example is to reduce him from sovereign Savior to ethical coach and to transform the gospel into law. #keller
 
Bad evangelism says: I’m right, you’re wrong, and I would love to tell you about it. #keller
 
The goal in life is not to be in charge, but to depend on and rest in the wisdom, power and grace of the One who is and will be in charge. #tripp
 
FYI:
1. Communicating with Teens… https://www.heartlightministries.org/2017/09/communicating-with-teens-2/?utm_source=CC+Master+List&utm_campaign=8fa4ead912-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5926458580-8fa4ead912-126726953
 
2. Bad Fad Alert: Hot Water Challenge… https://homeword.com/2017/09/07/bad-fad-alert-hot-water-challenge/?mc_cid=9aeff038c4&mc_eid=759fd44a0d#.WbUwWK2ZN0s
Parents your role really matters… https://homeword.com/articles/parents-your-role-really-matters/?mc_cid=2784de0f84&mc_eid=759fd44a0d#.WbCRt62ZN0s
 
3. Loving your hard to like kid… https://www.reviveourhearts.com/true-woman/blog/loving-your-hard-kid/
 
4. Crippling Behaviors That Keep Children from Growing into Leaders… https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/01/16/7-crippling-parenting-behaviors-that-keep-children-from-growing-into-leaders/#d1eec775957b
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
10 Steps on Giving Your Volunteers Feedback by Dale Hudson
Criticism vs. Feedback: Why You Must Know the Difference as a Leader by Dale Hudson
Understanding Teens and Their Smart Phone Habits (emarketer)
Is the Bible Relevant Today? by J. Warner Wallace
 

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/57201/our-stories
 
http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/69175/a-new-creation?utm_source=WorshipHouse%20Media%20–%20Around%20the%20House%20(CD%20Update)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=spot1-2208619&utm_campaign=nl-08/30/2017-2208619
 
Here are 2 just for you:
 
Bouncing Back

Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. –Proverbs 25:11 (NLT)

As a junior in high school, I was devastated when I was cut from the top volleyball team and sent to the second team. I felt disappointed, embarrassed and dejected. That evening, I spoke with a friend who passed on these words of wisdom, “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce back that matters.” I wrote the quote on my mirror and committed to doing my best for this new team, instead of sulking over my personal loss. Instead of continuing to fall and spiral, I committed to bounce back.

What I learned that day is that what happens to me in life doesn’t count as much as how I react to those things. I had a choice the day I was cut from the team: I could wallow in misery and quit the team, or I could choose to fight through my circumstances and work hard to improve. Each day, choices like these present themselves. When people are cruel, I can choose to accept their apology or let my bitterness grow. When I am treated unfairly, I can vengefully plot a way to get even, or I can seek the Lord’s wisdom and demonstrate patience as He shows me what to do. When I am fired from a job, I can learn from why things did not work or I can blame everyone else around me for my misfortune and never learn, grow or change. When I am congratulated for a job well done, I can either pat myself on the back or thank the Lord for providing me with the skills to succeed.

Life throws different circumstances our way every day, both good and bad. Wherever you are in your life, it is important to remember that people are watching and looking to see how you are living your life. You will long be remembered, not only for what happened to you in your life but for how you handled life’s circumstances. When those circumstances cause you to fall, I challenge you to bounce back!

TAKE A MOMENT (Anonymous)

Recently I took a few moments to reflect on Psalm 139.  The following is my personal, devotional paraphrase of the Psalm that I wrote as in response to that reflection.

Here is my Psalm 139 paraphrase …..

You know my heart – You have searched me – You have gone the distance –taken the initiative – and therefore You know me.

You know what I think–You know what motivates me to action and contemplation because You know my every thought.

You know what I do – what my habits are – You are very familiar with my ways – the ways in which I move through life – from my active and social times to my quiet, somber and restful times – You know me well enough to discern my every habit.  You know me better than I know myself!

You know what I will say – all of it – before I even say it – every word of it!

Even though You know me – You love me.  I know this because Your hand of love and protection surrounds and covers me – You know everything about me – heart, mind, body and soul and yet You still love me that much.

I don’t get it.  This concept is impossible for me to grasp.

I don’t know if I can take so close a relationship – it scares me – I want to hide – but there is no place to hide from You. There is nowhere in the highest heavens or the lowest depths to hide – You are everywhere.

I can’t get up early and try to fly away.  It doesn’t matter how far I travel.  It doesn’t matter where or when I go anywhere.  You will still be there with me, guiding me, holding me tightly.

I can’t use darkness as a cloak – the light of Your presence just melts the darkness away.  You will still see all of me – my heart, my thoughts, my actions, my words.  And I will still be the object of Your love.

You made me – I am Your creation – not some random grouping of cells and DNA – I have a soul – an innermost being – that only You could make –  You gave me my mother – I am no one else’s daughter – I came from her because you placed me – heart, mind, body and soul – within her.

I am unique – tenderly planted and watered from conception – created as others, yet different from them all – I am Your wonderful work – from the depths of my soul, I know that.  I know that I am Yours and for that reason alone I am wonderful.  What a wonderful thing You have done!

I am in Your book.  Somewhere in Your book there is a chapter about me – written when I was only a thought in Your mind’s eye.  You knew what I would look like – I was not a surprise or a secret to You – You thought of me, wrote of me, planned my days for me – and then you knit me together like a perfectly fitting garment – exactly matching the vision You had of and for me.

You are always thinking precious thoughts about me.  Not negative thoughts.  Not thoughts of disappointment.  Not thoughts of anger.  Just precious thoughts!

You never stop thinking about me.  You think more about me that I do!  Even when I am sound asleep, resting my mind – You are still thinking about me.  I couldn’t even begin to count the thoughts you have of me.  There are not enough numbers!

You are so grand.  And, You are so good.  You are the creator who knows everything.  You write it all down in Your book. You can do all of this – so why don’t You stop evil?  I am the object of Your love – why don’t You keep evil away from me? Why did You include those stories in the pages of Your book? They are Your enemies.  They intend to harm You.  They lie about You – hate You – speak lies in Your name.

I hate them!  I abhor them!  They are my sworn enemies – all I feel for them is hated.  They hate You so I hate them.

I wonder what You think of them?  You created them too. Are they the objects of Your love?  Do You love them in spite of their failings – as you do me?  Must I love what You love? Must I love an enemy?  This kind of thinking makes me anxious.

I want you to search deeper inside me.  No more trying to run and hide.  I want You to know my heart – I want You to examine every part of me.  Examine these disquieting thoughts I have.  If my way of thinking and being is taking me in the wrong direction, lead me in the right one – always lead me in the right way.  May I live my days – heart, mind, body and spirit according to the vision You had for me – the one You wrote in Your book.

Blessings, Kendall

09.18.17

Is the Bible Relevant Today? by J. Warner Wallace

coldcasechristianity.com

I have a drawer in my desk that’s filled with manuals and instruction guides. Every time I purchase a new device (whether it’s an electric garden tool or a smart phone), I store the original instruction manual in this drawer. I occasionally return to these guides when I have a problem or need an answer. But, about once a year, I sift through these documents and throw many of them away. The discarded manuals are still trueand skillfully written, but they’re now irrelevant; I’ve mastered the devices they describe, and I’m able to overcome any problem I may encounter on my own. But, while my collection of instruction manuals shrinks every year, my collection of Bibles and related study materials increases. Why? Because the Bible continues to answer life’s most important questions. It solves the most pressing problem we face as humans; a problem we simply can’t resolve on our own.

My experience as a cold-case homicide detective is partially to blame for my growing Biblical library. The instruction manuals in my desk drawer would never have become part of my collection if they didn’t correctly describe the devices they claimed to support. Their accuracy is the key to their relevancy. When I first investigated the claims of the New Testament accounts, I knew their relevancy would be similarly dependent upon the degree to which they were true. I was thirty-five years old and a seasoned detective when I first began to evaluate the reliability of the Gospels using the same skill set I applied to my criminal investigations. Were the accounts written early enough to have been produced by eyewitnesses? Could they be corroborated by additional early witnesses, external archaeological or internal linguistic evidence? Were the accounts corrupted or changed over time? Did the authors possess a bias that would motivate them to lie? I investigated these attributes of the gospels and became convinced they were telling me the truth about Jesus of Nazareth. But their reliability and truthfulness were only part of the story. The gospels also accurately described something I observed in murderers.

I’ve arrested my fair share of cold-case killers, and most of them were law-abiding, upstanding citizens by the time I met them, many years after they brutally killed their victims. The more I spoke with these murderers, the more I realized they were just like… me. And you. And everyone else on the planet. Some had become fire captains, some teachers, some businessmen. They were good parents, reliable family members, and trustworthy employees. But they were all protecting a dark secret from their past; striving daily to convince a watching world they were good people, even though they had done something unspeakable. None of these killers committed more than one murder, and none would likely commit another. But each bore the burden of knowing who they really were, despite appearances.

As I investigated each cold-case homicide, I came to realize these murderers weren’t unlike the rest of us. If you think you’re incapable of committing such a crime, you’ve likely underestimated the possible scenarios you might face, and overestimated how you might respond. Even if you don’t think you’re capable of such atrocities, I bet there’s still some secret you don’t want others to discover; we’re all moral law-breakers of one kind or another. The penal code in my state describes crimes that are as old as human history. In fact, many of our statutes still reflect the Biblical language of the Old Testament. Some things change, but our fallen, base desires grudgingly remain. We are moral outlaws to one degree or another.

And that’s why the Bible is still relevant today. The instruction manuals I routinely discard are still true, but they are no longer necessary. The Bible, however, is both true and necessary. The New Testament accurately describes the Savior, and it accurately describes our need for a Savior. It provides the only solution to the most important problem we’ll ever encounter: our separation from a holy, perfect God. We can’t solve this problem on our own; Jesus is still the onlyanswer. That’s why I’m running out of space for my collection of Biblical commentaries, resources and references, but my desk drawer is more than big enough to hold all my manuals. I’ll eventually master every device and make the manuals irrelevant, but I’ll never overcome my need for a Savior. The claims of the Bible are both true and necessary. The Bible is still relevant today.

09.11.17

Hi! Hard day for many…. Dear God may we choose to cling to faith instead of crumbling in fear, may we discover Your presence in every moment, may we trust Your love and faithfulness, may we cling to You as You hold us in Your unrelenting grip of grace! In Christ’s Name Amen.
 
Sending love and prayers for miracle after miracle to many right now!
 
I am praying for each one of you right now! 
 
I know many classes are starting this week… please continue to pray for one another!
 
Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
 
The evening news must not dictate our theology. Christ reigns and His kingdom will endure forever. #Helopoulous (Thanks, Debbie!)
 
The same God that hears you in the sunshine is the same God that will answer you in the storm. # lecrae
 
Learn to grow your ‘no’ so God can bless your ‘yes’. Saying yes to everything will never lead to success. #lusko
 
The goal in life is not to be in charge, but to depend on and rest in the wisdom, power and grace of the One who is and will be in charge. #tripp
 
FYI:
 
2. New study debunks friends with benefits… https://acculturated.com/new-study-debunks-friends-benefits-relationships/?utm_content=buffer6090b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer&utm_source=Daily+Briefing&utm_campaign=e6d28a9526-Daily+Briefing+07%2F28%2F17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ed3d9d5277-e6d28a9526-273669925&mc_cid=e6d28a9526&mc_eid=a5401c43e5
 
 
4. Recognizing and Preventing Mean Girls… https://www.heartlightministries.org/2017/07/recognizing-preventing-mean-girls/?utm_source=CC+Master+List&utm_campaign=5667cebe92-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5926458580-5667cebe92-126726953
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
Are Smart Phones Damaging Our Kids by Dale Hudson
How to Reach the Most Exhausted Generation in History by Aaron Helman
Who Are the Unchurched? by Gary D.Foster Consulting
A Confusing Culture for Teens and Parents by Mark Gregston (Good thoughts and reminders.)

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/69291/known?utm_source=WorshipHouse%20Media%20–%20Around%20the%20House%20(CD%20Update)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=banner2-2208619&utm_campaign=nl-08/30/2017-2208619
 
http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/64988/no-other-king?utm_source=WorshipHouse%20Media%20–%20Around%20the%20House%20(CD%20Update)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=no_other_king-2207483&utm_campaign=fp-08/26/2017-2207483
 
Here are 2 just for you:

Rejoice in the Lord’s Sovereignty

The next time you fear the future, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty. Rejoice in what he has accomplished. Rejoice that he is able to do what you cannot do. Fill your mind with thoughts of God.

“He is the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25).
“He is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
“His years will never end” (Psalm 102:27 NIV).

He is king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, and overlord of all history. An arch of his eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute! Every throne is a footstool to his. Every crown is papier-mache next to his. He consults no advisers. He needs no congress. He reports to no one. He is in charge.

Sovereignty gives the saint the inside track to peace. Others see the problems of the world and wring their hands. We see the problems of the world and bend our knee.

 
3 Ways the Gospel Shapes Our Definition of Success

How do you measure success?

All of us, I think, have some internal barometer by which we measure ourselves. And we apply that measure to all different kinds of activities. We apply it to everything from our career to our families to our relationships all the way down to our daily diet.

And of course we do. Because we all want to be successful, whatever that means in our particular version of it. But the problem with our version of success is the same problem we have with all of life – because of sin, this definition is misshapen. It’s warped and marred. It’s broken.

As a result of its brokenness, we need to feel successful in order to validate ourselves as people. We need that mark of achievement to make ourselves feel secure and worthwhile and, ultimately, lovable by others.

In other words, we fundamentally look to our definition of “success” to do that which can only truly and lastingly be accomplished in Jesus. But when we believe the gospel, when we become the children of God by faith alone and in Christ alone, we see our definition of success start to change.

How specifically does that happen? I’d suggest at least these three ways that, by God’s grace, I’m seeing in my own life:

1. Success is less about metrics and more about faithfulness.

If success was truly all about achieving some metric, then Jesus was an absolute failure. Abandoned by His friends, having failed to seize the momentum that was His, Jesus completely dropped the ball. But Jesus knew that success was ultimately measured in faithfulness to what God had called Him to do and be, and that’s precisely what He is and did.

In the same respect, there are all kinds of ways we might achieve some kind of metric. We might bend the financial rules in order to meet the required revenue at work, we might take advantage of others in order to climb the ladder, we might sacrifice our integrity on any number of altars to produce the right result. But the gospel reminds us that obedience to the will of God is what we are after.

2. Success is less about what you’re doing than who you’re becoming.

Apart from Christ, we will almost inevitably define success in terms of accomplishment. We have to keep getting promoted, we have to keep making more money, we have to keep moving up in the social circle. But the gospel steps onto this devastating treadmill and simply states, “Enough.”

When we believe the gospel, we come to understand that God is going to shape us into the image of Jesus. And to do that, He’s going to use any and everything at His disposal. One of the most effective tools He uses for this shaping is our failure. For it’s when we fail that we are pushed to remember again and again who we really are – that no matter whether or not we achieve some other measure of success, we are once and always children of God.

If God’s aim for us, then, is to be like Jesus, then the gospel helps us deal with failure by refocusing us not on what we are doing (or failing to do) but instead who God is making us to be.

3. Success is less about what you’re accomplishing than who you’re influencing.

We are people-users. This is one of the ways all our relationships are broken by sin. We will always default to looking at others as tools to be used for our own benefit our pleasure. And when we do that, we often find that people are a great stepping stone for our own goals.

But the gospel reshapes how we see others. No longer do we see them as tools of utility, but fellow image-bearers of God. We begin to understand that we cannot leave a wake of bodies in our pathway, no matter how much doing so might propel us toward some goal we have.

Consider today, friends, how you define success, no matter where you find yourself. Consider it, and then let the gospel speak through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we do that, we will stand apart from a world of people who are clamoring for their own piece of the pie.

Blessings, Kendall

09.11.17

How to Reach the Most Exhausted Generation in History by Aaron Helman

ministrytoyouth.com

Let’s start the way all youth ministry blog posts should begin, with a quote from a Greek economist about teenagers:

“They only care about frivolous things. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly… impatient of restraint.”

If my grandfather read youth ministry blogs (he doesn’t, of course), he’d be happily nodding his head in agreement, but here’s the thing I didn’t yet mention:

That Greek economist is a man named Hesiod who died 650 years before Jesus was born and was a contemporary of the same Homer who wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey.

The idea that teenagers these days are somehow different – or worse – isn’t a new one.

For pretty much as long as we have recorded history, every generation of adults has had those who complained about teenagers.

The truth is, teenagers probably haven’t changed as much as many want to believe. Instead, it’s the world around teenagers that’s changing so radically.

It’s the world that – by any statistical measure – has left today’s teenagers more overworked and under slept than any generation of teenagers in history, and it absolutely changes the way that we have to be in ministry with them.

TODAY’S TEENAGE WORLD

Here’s a fun statistic.

The average high school student reports doing three hours of homework a night.

That’s near twice as much as teenagers reported doing 15 years ago (back when I was a teenager).

As youth workers, it’s easy to complain when students are too busy to come to youth group, but I think we can all agree that teenagers are not the ones who chose to have three hours of homework a night.

When band camp lasts a full month for eight hours a day, we can agree that teenagers are not the ones who petitioned the band director for more rehearsals.

The largest change we’ve seen in teenagers is directly attributable to the world that adults have built for them.

They practice more, train more, rehearse more, and study more than ever before – almost always at the behest of the adults around them.

The most significant change in the teenage world is that the adults surrounding it expect teenagers to be bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, better rehearsed, and more trained than ever before.

Almost miraculously, teenagers are, for the most part, doing pretty well navigating this difficult, new world.

They’re getting most of their homework done, nailing auditions, and making football teams even though it’s literally harder to do those things than ever before.

And yes, I know it’s frustrating that youth ministry gets the short stick.

I know it’s frustrating that students seem to almost always choose school, then sports, then music and art, ahead of attending our Wednesday night program.

Yes, I wish they would learn to put their relationship with Jesus ahead of their obsession with being the first-chair trombone or the starting goalie or the Valedictorian.

And we’ll get to all that in a little bit, but first, let’s talk about sleep.

TEENAGERS DON’T SLEEP (NEARLY) ENOUGH

Physiologically, adolescents require a lot of sleep.

Depending on how hard puberty hits, it’s not uncommon for a 16-year-old to actually require more sleep than a pre-adolescent 12-year-old. Pubescent teenagers can need 8-10 hours of sleep a night.

They’re not getting it.

What do you suppose happens when teenagers are loaded with historic levels of stress and pressure, are chronically underslept, and turn to caffeine at younger and younger ages to deal with it?

Every expected outcome. Depression. Panic attacks. Anti-social behavior. Cutting. Suicide.

Today’s teenagers are more exhausted – physiologically, mentally, and emotionally – than any generation before them, and even though they’re trying their best, it’s taking a very real toll.

“MY YOKE IS EASY, AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT.”

In the middle of all of this teenage stress and commitment is an unbelievable opportunity for youth ministry if we’ll just stop to realize that it’s there.

Every teacher wants teenagers to study more.

Every coach wants teenagers to practice more.

Every director wants teenagers to rehearse more.

Every boss wants teenagers to work more.

And Jesus said this:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

Yes, we want our students to be more committed.

Yes, we want their attendance to be more steady.

Yes, we want them to sign up for retreats and missions trips and summer camps and service projects.

But if we look at this generation of teenagers – who are tired and broken and flat-out exhausted – and we don’t tell them that Jesus offers rest, we’ve failed to share the full story and especially the part of it that they so desperately need to hear.

While every other adult voice in a teenager’s life presses for more and more and more and more, the call of Jesus for the weary is to enter into the presence of Jesus and to rest.

It’s remarkable, really, but the kinds of activities that I hated doing as a teenager in youth group are actually the most popular among the teenagers I serve today.

My students would report that their favorite times are the silent, meditative moments we build into our services – not the up-tempo music that I loved when I was a teenager.

They love kneeling at the rail and whispering prayers and confessions to God.

My students want to sleep at overnighters and retreats.

My students aren’t clamoring for high-energy, hyper-programmed gatherings named after energy drinks.

More often than not, they’d rather recline into a comfortable chair with a cup of hot chocolate and talk about life and faith.

And at the end of the day, they are more content than I ever was as a teenager to merely dwell quietly in the presence of God, to experience a moment of stillness and peace, and to pray and breathe.

Now, more than ever, this generation needs the message of Matthew 11:28 to fall back on.

Everything else in the world is trying to wear them out, but the promise of Jesus is rest.

09.11.17

Who Are the Unchurched? by Gary D.Foster Consulting

missionamerica.org

They aren’t antagonistic. They welcome a conversation with believers. They aren’t staying out of church for the reasons you may think. In one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on the unchurched, LifeWay Research, in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, surveyed 2,000 unchurched Americans. They defined “unchurched” as someone who has not attended a worship service in the last 6 months. A third of respondents were non-white. Genders were almost equally represented (53% male), and almost half have a high school diploma or less. Contrary to many perceptions, 62% went to church regularly as a child. A third have plans to go to church in the future. 47% are very open to a gospel conversation. 31% would listen actively without participating. 80% would welcome a gospel conversation. Another 12% would discuss it with some discomfort, and only 11% would change the subject as soon as possible. 55% would attend church if invited by a family member. And 51% would attend church if invited by a friend or neighbor. The opportunities are incredible. (Sermon Central 12/23/16)

The Most Significant Trend in Americans’ religiosity in recent decades has been the growing shift away from formal or official religion. 21% of U.S. adults don’t have a formal religious identity. This represents a major change from the late 40s and 50s when only 2% to 3% of Americans did not report a formal religious identity, according to Gallup. The increase in those claiming no religious identity began in the 70s, with the percentage crossing the 10% threshold in ‛90 and climbing into the teens in the 00s. Americans are also significantly less likely now than they were in the past to claim membership in a church, synagogue or mosque. In 1937, when Gallup first asked about church membership, 73% said they were a member of a church. This dropped into the upper 60% range in the 80s and continued to decrease from that point on. It fell to its lowest point of 54% in ‛15 but increased slightly to 56% this year. Self-reported church attendance is also lower. Gallup’s longest-running religious service attendance question asks, “Did you, yourself, happen to attend church, synagogue or mosque in the last seven days, or not?” In 1939 41% said “yes.” That dropped to 37% in 1940 and rose to 39% in 1950. It continued to climb, reaching as high as 49% in the 50s. Attendance then settled down to around 40% for decades, before dropping to 36% for the past 3 years. (Gallup 12/23/16)

America Remains Largely Christian 74% of Americans identify with a Christian religion, and 5% with a non-Christian religion. The rest of the U.S. adult population, about 21%, either says they don’t have a formal religious identity or don’t give a response. The dominance of Christianity in the U.S. is not new, but it has changed over time. The U.S. has seen an increase in those with no formal religious identity (“nones”) and a related decrease in those identifying with a Christian religion. Since ‛08, the “nones” have increased by 6 percentage points, while those identifying as Christian have decreased by 6. The 5% who identify with a non-Christian religion has stayed constant. In the late 40s and 50s over 90% of American adults identified as Christian (either Protestant or Catholic) with most of the rest identifying as Jewish. (Gallup 12/23/16)

Religion Still Important 53% of Americans say religion is “very important” in their lives. This is down marginally from recent years, but the trend over time has shown less of a decline than have other religious indicators such as religious identification or church membership. In ‛65, 70% said religion was “very important” in their lives, but figures have since ranged from 52% to 61%. The percentage reporting that religion is “very important” hit the low end of this range in the 80s and has done so again in more recent years. The 53% who say religion is “very important” this year is low on a relative basis but is similar to what it was in ‛78 and ‛87. (Gallup 12/23/16)

Top 10 Characteristics Unchurched Families 1. They are a blended home. 2. They are spiritually mismatched. 3. They are financially strapped. 4. They are over-calendared. 5. They are biblically illiterate. 6. They are ethnically diverse. 7. They have a special needs child. 8. 1 in 5 have experienced some form of trauma in the home. 9. They want to be successful. 10. They are spiritually hungry. May churches remove every unnecessary encumbrance and unbiblical distraction and be the place of grace that reaches the ones Christ gave his very life for! (Pastors.com 12/5/16)

Prolonged Marginalization of Young Adulthood Sociologist Christian Smith and colleagues interviewed over 3,000 American adolescents ages 13 to 17. He found most claimed to be religious. However, Smith characterizes their religion as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” They have faith in a moralistic deity who expects human creatures to behave, to feel good about themselves, and to run their own lives without too much divine intervention. A dark side of emerging adulthood is exposed when the young people face challenges of young adulthood. They are disproportionately subject to substance abuse, consumerism, sexual promiscuity, lack of moral language, withdrawal from civic and political engagement and a host of emotional maladies. 60% of young adults studied believe every individual must be free to act on his or her personal values. They practice a form of banal tolerance– not judging others, being tolerant, and not imposing one’s own values. Half believe “morality is whatever people think it is” and that “there are no definite rights and wrongs for everybody.” Most “think that people’s believing something to be morally true is what makes it morally true” and that “if some cultures believe different things about morality, then there is not a moral truth.” Only one-quarter spoke of wanting to help others or being a positive influence in others’ lives. (Insights into Religion 1/12/17, Young, Emerging, Lost or Arrested?  David F. White)

Faith on The Hill The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early ‛60s, according to a new Pew Research analysis. Indeed, among members of the new, 115th Congress, 91% describe themselves as Christians similar to the 87th Congress (1961 to 1962) when 95% did so. Like the nation as a whole, Congress has become much less Protestant over time. The total percentage of Protestants in Congress has dropped from 75% in ‛61 to 56% today. During this period, Congress’s share of Catholics has gone from 19% to 31%. The group most notably underrepresented is the religiously unaffiliated or “nones.” 23% of Americans now identify as nones while just 0.2% of members of Congress do so. (Pew Research Center 1/3/17)

What Non-Christians Really Think About Christians  According to LifeWay researcher Thom Rainer, there are 7 common types of comments his years of research have heard when asking non-Christians their thoughts about Christians. Here they in their order frequency: 1. Christians are against more things than they are for.  2. I would like to develop a friendship with a Christian. 3. I would like to learn about the Bible from a Christian. 4. I don’t see much difference in the way Christians live compared to others. 5. I wish I could learn to be a better husband/wife/dad/mom, etc., from a Christian. 6. Some Christians try to act like they have no problems. 7. I wish a Christian would take me to his or her church. Do you see the pattern? Non-Christians want to interact with Christians. They want to see Christians’ actions match their beliefs. They want Christians to be real. (Church Leaders 12/23/16)

U.S. Religion Contributes $1.2 Trillion Religion makes a huge socio-economic contribution to life in the U.S., some $1.2 trillion annually, according to recent research. These dollars range from the basic economic drivers of any business (staff, overhead, utilities) to billions spent on philanthropic programs, educational institutions and health care services. $1.2 trillion in terms of Gross Domestic Product, it would make it the 15th largest national economy in the world. (Leadership Network 12/20/16)

Who Celebrates Christmas? 92% of Americans and nearly all Christians (96%) say they celebrate Christmas, according to a ‛13 Pew Research Center survey. This is no surprise, but what might be more unexpected is that 81% of non-Christians in the U.S. also celebrate Christmas. This includes 87% of people with no religion and even about 76% of Asian-American Buddhists and 73% of Hindus. Also, 32% of U.S. Jews had a Christmas tree in their homes during the most recent holiday season. Among Americans overall, 51% say they celebrate Christmas as more of a religious holiday, while 32% say it is more of a cultural holiday to them personally. (Pew Fact Tank 12/21/16)

Beliefs Matter People who pray every day are 30% more likely to give to a charity than people who do not pray, people who devote time to a spiritual life are 42% more likely to give to charity than those who do not, and interestingly, “people who say that ‘beliefs don’t matter as long as you’re a good person’ are dramatically less likely to give charitably (69% to 86%) and to volunteer (32% to 51%) than people who think that beliefs do matter.  (LifeSite News 12/22/16)

Why We Don’t Tithe Tithing is a spiritual discipline many Christians practice. In its simplest form, it means giving back to God 10% of what you make. Charles Stone, Sr. Pastor and founder of StoneWell Ministries has seen 10 common reasons church people give for not tithing. They are:  1. “It’s all mine anyway. Why should I give?” 2. “I give elsewhere.” 3. “Tithing is not in the New Testament.” 4. “God will provide through other people.” 5. “My gifts don’t really count.” 6. “I don’t trust preachers.” 7. “I only give to projects I like.” 8. “I have no control over my finances. My husband/wife does.” 9. “I will tithe when I can afford it.” 10. “I’m afraid to.” (Outreach.com 1/3/17)

What Influences Us the Most? Among conservative Christians the top 3 personal influences are the Bible (estimated to have “a lot of influence” on their decisions and perspectives by 98%), religious teaching (92%), and the values taught to them by their parents (77%). Other significant influencers are family members (33%); courts and judges (33%); government laws and regulations (30%); books (18%); the policies implemented by businesses (18%); conversations with friends (17%); schools (12%); and the behavior and choices of their friends (10%). Interestingly, 74% claimed the content of entertainment media and 64% believed current music has no influence upon them. (American Culture & Faith Institute 1/4/17)

Bible Stories Losing Relevance When Luther Seminary professor David Lose assigned his students to interview two persons from their home congregations and ask them what Bible stories provide them with comfort or courage when they are struggling with a problem, only one in 100 students reported back that an interviewee could readily identify such a story. That dismal rate points to the low level of influence of the biblical narrative in the everyday life of Christians. (Faith in Leadership 1/13/14)

Growing vs. Declining Churches According to a long-term Wilfrid Laurier Univ. study, 93% of clergy members and 83% of worshipers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb.” This compared with 67% of worshipers and 56% of clergy members from declining churches. Furthermore, all growing church clergy members and 90% of their worshipers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers,” compared with 80% of worshipers and a mere 44% of clergy members from declining churches. (Washington Post 1/4/17)

Fewer Praying for Refugees American Christians are less responsive to the Syrian crisis than they were a year ago, according to a World Vision survey. Fewer “committed Christians” said they had taken action on behalf of refugees in the past 2 years. In ‛16, 38% said they had been involved, down from 44% the year before. The number of committed Christians praying for Syrian refugees dropped by more than a third this year, down to 19%. Americans have become slightly more willing to share news about refugees on social media (14%) and to donate to aid groups (11%) than last year. Syria’s population has scattered as a result of a civil war that began in ‛11; 6.1 million Syrians remain displaced within their country, and 4.8 million have left as refugees. Half of those are children. Over the past year, the U.S. accepted more than 10,000 Syrian refugees. According to a Pew Research Center, 67% of white evangelicals and 65% of mainline Protestants believe America does not have a moral responsibility to accept Syrian refugees. Overall, 40% of American voters agreed. (CT Gleanings12/22/16)

Disruptive Church Trends The culture continues to change rapidly around us. Here are 6 disruptive church trends, trend-watcher Carey Nieuwhof sees coming in ‛17. 1) Consumer Christianity will die faster than ever. That’s because it asks “What’s in it for me?” Christian maturity isn’t marked by how much we know or what we can get, it’s marked by how much we love and how much we give in light of how deeply we’ve been loved and how much we’ve been given. 2) Cool church will morph. Having great preaching, a decent band and an awesome facility or environment is not a bad thing. But unchurched people are increasingly interested in the mission more than the method. They want to meet Jesus. They have enough cool in their lives, but not enough Jesus. 3). Preachers who can’t speak to the unchurched will preach to a shrinking crowd. One day, every church will have to learn how to reach unchurched people because only unchurched people will be left. 4) Preaching will fuse both the head and the heart. Preaching to the head can lead to a changed mind, but not a changed life. Preaching only to the heart creates emotional followers, whose faith rises and falls with their feelings. The goal is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. 5) Anonymity will continue to give way to community. The rise of technology has created a strange paradox; people are more connected than ever but feel more disconnected than ever. Anonymity is slowly giving way to community. 6) Engagement will become the new attendance. For decades, church leaders have used Sunday attendance as a measure of effectiveness in ministry. The challenge these days is that even committed Christians are attending church less often. Engagement will become the new growth engine in the future church. (ChurchLeaders.com, Carey Nieuwhof, 1/8/17)

Most Missionaries are Women Among evangelical faith missions between 80–85% of all single missionaries are women. It is a rare thing, like 2 out of every 10, for a single man to make missions his life’s vocation, which results in the overall statistics being that one-third of those in evangelical world missions are married men, one-third are married women, and 80% of the last third are single women. Which means that something just less than two-thirds of the total missionary force are women. (ChurchLeders.com 12/10/17)

Christian Persecution Continues to Increase For the third year in a row, the modern persecution of Christians worldwide has hit another record high. But the primary cause, Islamic extremism, now has a rival: ethnic nationalism. Thus, Asia increasingly merits concern alongside the Middle East, according to the 2017 World Watch List) by Open Doors. The total number of persecution incidents in the top 50 most dangerous countries increased, revealing the persecution of Christians worldwide as a rising trend. The top 10 nations where it is most dangerous and difficult to practice the Christian faith are: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea. Yemen was the only new country in the top 10, replacing Libya. (CT Gleanings 1/11/17)

Assisted Suicide A recent Lifeway Research study revealed a disconcerting belief among Christians generally and Evangelicals in particular. 67% of Americans agree with the statement, “When a person is facing a painful terminal disease, it is morally acceptable to ask for a physician’s aid in taking his or her own life.” This is a shockingly high number. Even more disturbing are the numbers among faith groups; 59% of all Christians agree with the statement, as do 38% of those who claim to be Evangelical. This confirms a ‛13 Pew Research study where they asked a similar question. (The Exchange 12/9/16)

Christians and Pastors Agree & Disagree A new American Culture & Faith Institute survey shows conservative pastors and conservative Christians hold similar views on a number of outlooks. However, there are several critical perspectives where they have significant differences. Expected similarities: Almost all of the people in each group self-described as “pro-life advocates” (99% among SAGE Cons (the spiritually active, governance engaged conservative voters) and 98% among theolocons (theologically conservative Christian pastors). 96% of SAGE Cons and 95% of theolocons identify as evangelicals. 99% of SAGE Cons and 97% of theolocons agree absolute moral truth exists. 99% and 98% respectively, personally possess a biblical world-view. Just 4% and 7%, respectively are comfortable with postmodernism. Noteworthy differences: 58% of theolocons said they would be willing to engage in civil disobedience vs. 43% of SAGE Cons. Yet 77% of SAGE Cons are “angry about the current state of America” vs. 66% of theolocons. 46% of SAGE Cons said they do not trust any politician vs. 34% of theolocons. 30% of SAGE Cons agree “people are basically good” vs. 19% of theolocons. (American Culture & Faith Institute 12/21/16)

Why You Should Attend Church Here are 4 powerful reasons from evangelist and author Matt Brown why you should attend church weekly, and why church attendance can change your life: 1. God says so. God tells us in his Word to “not give up meeting together” (Heb. 10:25). 2. Worshipping Jesus together is powerful. There is something biblically powerful about gathering together with other believers to worship. 3. We need Christian community. It fulfills something inside of us to do life with, encourage and be authentically involved in each other’s lives. 4. We grow more together than alone. We are all human, and no one is perfect. So, it requires effort and intentionality and grace from God to do life together, even as believers. (Outreach 1/5/17)

As Marriage Declines, So Does Religious Engagement Leading scholars conclude that religious disengagement is associated with the trend to postpone marriage and parenthood. For younger (and older) adults, marital rates and religious involvement tend to go hand-in-hand. Almost all the decline in religious attendance has taken place among younger adults who have not married.  Today’s young adults are divided religiously on lines corresponding closely to their marital status. Young adults who are married go to church and often to theologically conservative churches. Unmarried young adults are less likely to attend religious services. Settling down in family usually means settling down to church. Growing strong marriages and thriving families is an important church growth strategy that cannot be ignored. (Focus on the Family Findings 8/13)

Are Parents Taking Their Kids to Church? According to Pew Research, 65% of parents attend worship service with their children at least a few times a year. 83% of evangelical parents are taking their children to church. 78% of Catholic parents are taking their children to church. 67% of mainline Protestant parents are taking their children to church. 69% of parents, who are nones, say they seldom or never take their children to church.  (Church Leaders 12/23/16)

Are Single Parents Passing on Their Faith? Whether one was raised by 2 people who shared the same faith or by a single parent seems to have little effect on whether that person carries the religion of his or her parent or parents into adulthood. Among adults who were raised by 2 Catholic parents, 62% describe themselves as Catholics today, as do 58% of those raised by a single parent who was Catholic. (Pew Research, Church Leaders 12/23/16)

How are Millennial Parents Influencing Their Kids? 75% of parents married to spouses of the same religion say they pray or read Scripture with their children. 70% of parents married to spouses of the same religion say they send their children to religious education programs such as Sunday School. 82% of households where one parent is religious and the other is a none, say their child is being raised in a religion. Among those parents who were raised exclusively by Protestants, roughly 80% now identify with Protestantism, including 80% of those raised by 1 Protestant parent and 75% of those raised by a single parent who was Protestant. Among those raised by one Protestant and one religious “none,” 56% now identify with Protestantism, while 34% are religiously unaffiliated. Those who were raised by a Protestant and a Catholic, are divided among those who now identify with Protestantism (38%), Catholicism (29%) and no religion (26%). (Pew Research, Church Leaders 12/23/16)

How Millennial Parents Were Raised The biggest influence in a child’s life is his or her parents. And this includes spiritual influence as well. Whether positive or negative, parents, by their words and actions, heavily weigh in on the trajectory of their child’s spiritual life. A recent Pew Research report states 27% of Millennial parents were raised with a mixed religious household. 24% of parents were raised by at least one parent who was a religious none. 15% were raised by at least one parent who was religious and one who was a none. 6% of were raised by households where both parents were nones. 3% were raised by a single parent who was a none. Only 24% were raised by 2 Protestant parents, 48% of previous generations. (Church Leaders 12/23/16)

Many Poor Single Mothers have a strong interest in instilling faith in their children, reports College of the Holy Cross’ sociologist Susan Crawford Sullivan. Her research and other studies on the religious practices of low-income mothers reveal a renewed commitment to faith with parenthood. Acting on that faith can provide a number of benefits from better behavioral outcomes for children to reduced parental stress for struggling moms. More than 66% of the mothers increased their religious participation after the birth of a child, according to a study of 2,356 families in which mothers of urban children born between ‛98 and ‛00 were interviewed over a 5-year period. They also maintained a higher rate of involvement through the first few years of the child’s life. And the more active faith life appeared to help both mother and child. On average, mothers who attended services weekly reported lower levels of parenting stress and have children who are less likely to get in fights or bully others and have fewer signs of being withdrawn or depressed. In contrast, non-attenders reported being less involved with their children and greater parenting stress. Their children also displayed more problem behaviors. Yet, the great majority of the mothers interviewed attended church less than once a month or not at all because of logistical problems such as transportation or feeling stigmatized or unwelcome. (The ARDA 10/3/10)

Parental Influence Huge According to Pew Research, 62 % of Millennials, who were raised by a single parent who was a none, now identify as nones. 38% who were raised by one parent who was religious and one who was not, now identify as nones. 26% who were raised by one Protestant and one Catholic parent now identify as nones. 20% who were raised by 2 Catholic parents, now identify as a none. 14% who were raised by 2 Protestant parents, now identify as a none. 25% say their spouse does not share their religion. 40% of those raised in households where both parents shared the same religion, say their mother was far more responsible for their religious upbringing than their father. 46% of those raised by parents who had different religions, say their mother was the biggest influence on their faith. 63% of those raised by one parent who was religious and one who was a none, say their mother was mainly responsible for their religious upbringing. (Church Leaders 12/23/16)

Reading Benefits Your Mind According to various scientific studies, reading has measurable health benefits beyond the transient (or infinite) enjoyment you derive from simply reading stories and experiencing characters. In fact, reading benefits your mind and body in so many ways, and the effects are so vast, it might just be the ultimate way to keep your brain and body healthy as you age. Science shows that when we read, our brain’s neural pathways come to life, causing new synapses to be created. This expands the brain’s elasticity, which decreases mental decline by 32% for the elderly and helps people of all ages improve their memory capacity. (BookBaby.com 12/15/16)

Are Millennials Really That Different? The answer is yes, profoundly so, according to Gallup. Millennials will change the world decisively more than any other generation. They will continue to disrupt how the world communicates; how we read and write and relate. Millennials are disrupting retail, hospitality, real estate and housing, transportation, entertainment and travel, and they will soon radically change higher education. They are altering the very social fabric of America and the world. They’re waiting longer to get married and have children, and they’re less likely than other generations to identify with specific religions or political parties. They are changing the very will of the world. Gallup has identified these 6 functional changes: 1. Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck—they want a purpose. 2. They are not pursuing job satisfaction—they are pursuing development. 3. They don’t want bosses—they want coaches. 4. They don’t want annual reviews—they want ongoing conversations. 5. They don’t want to fix their weaknesses—they want to develop their strengths. 6. It’s not just my job—it’s my life. (Gallup 5/11/16)

Gen Zers New Marchex research on the Gen Z generation, the generation coming up behind Millennials, finds they are impatient and want human contact when it comes to dealing with businesses. They place a premium on connecting in real time over the phone. Gen Zers are 2.6x more likely to click-to-call a business from their smartphone. 30% more likely to curse at a business over the phone. 60% more likely to hang up if a call isn’t answered in 45 seconds. (Biz Report 12/22/16)

Americans are Most Thankful for family (61%), health (13%), personal freedom (9%), memories (3%), safety & security (3%), friends (2%), opportunities (2%), achievements (2%), fun experiences (1%) and wealth (1%). (LifeWay Research, The Exchange 12/6/16)

Drug Overdoses Rise More than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, the most ever. The disastrous tally has been pushed to new heights by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids. Heroin deaths rose 23% in one year, to 12,989. Deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, rose 73% to 9,580. And prescription painkillers took the highest toll, but posted the smallest increase. Abuse of drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin killed 17,536, an increase of 4%. Overall, overdose deaths rose 11% last year, to 52,404. By comparison, the number of people who died in car crashes was 37,757, an increase of 12%. Gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, totaled 36,252, up 7%. (AP 12/1016)

Foreign Born Workers From ‛12–‛15, 19% of all U.S. workers aged 25 to 64 were foreign-born. From ‛12–‛15, 36% of architects and engineers, 30% of scientists and social scientists and 48% of computer and math workers with graduate degrees in the U.S. were foreign-born. (No Recovery | An Analysis of Long-Term U.S. Productivity Decline, Gallup, 2016)

Fast Facts:

  • Just 24% of Millennials say they were raised by two Protestant parents vs. 48% in the Silent and Greatest Generations.
  • 62% of U.S. adults raised solely by Catholic parents continue to identify as Catholics in adulthood.
  • 80% of U.S. adults raised exclusively within Protestantism continue to identify as Protestants today.
  • 90% of the churches on earth are under 200 people. 80% are under 100.
  • 39% of the youth pastors are in their first 3 years of ministry at their church.
  • 21% of all magazines read by Protestant laity are Christian.
  • 20% of all TV watched by Protestant laity is Christian.
  • The U.S. sends 127,000 mission workers abroad every year; about as many as the next 6 top-sending countries combined.
  • 71% of youth pastors develop their curriculum resources in-house.
  • On average, the typical youth ministry includes 12 adult volunteers, 60 teens, and 1.4 paid youth ministry staff.
  • 90% of U.S. churches have fewer than 200 people. 80% have fewer than 100.
  • 10% of Protestant laity is very informed about celebrities vs. 4% of Protestant pastors.
  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults were raised with a mixed religious background.
  • 8 in 10 U.S. adults say they were raised within a single religion.
  • 24% of Millennials say they were raised by at least one parent who was a religious “none” vs. 11% in the Silent and Greatest generations.
  • The richest 8 people in the world have net wealth of $426 billion — equivalent to the combined wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population.
  • 1 in 6 American adults take at least one psychiatric drug, usually an anti-anxiety medication or antidepressant, and most have been doing so for a year or more.
  • Women speak about 20,000 words a day –13,000 more than the average man.
  • The word “cosmetic” comes from the same root as “cosmos” meaning order or adornment.
  • Contrary to popular belief, alcohol lowers the body’s core temperature.
  • The volcanic rock known as pumice is the only rock that can float in water.
  • 1971 was the peak year for literacy among 17-year olds in the U.S.
  • Math scores for whites in the U.S. peaked in ‛92 and have not changed since then.
  • Health insurance as a share of worker compensation increased from 4.5% to 8.1% from ‛80 to ‛15.
  • The share of U.S. young adults who are self-employed was just over 4% in ‛80 and peaked at near 6% by the early‛ 90s. Since then, it has declined to less than 4%.
  • 43% of all marriages are remarriages and 65% of those involve children from a prior marriage.
  • 36% of total U.S. national spending was on healthcare, housing and education in‛15, up from 25% in ‛80.
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans won’t shell out for a large appliance unless it comes in their preferred color.
  • 28% of a typical American family’s income went to rent in ‛14 vs. just 19% in ‛80.
  • Spam will celebrate its 80th birthday July 5, 2017.
  • Natural redheads are more susceptible to pain and need more anesthesia when they go under the knife than do people with other hair colors.
  • 60% of U.S. working women rate work-life balance as very important.
  • The average man spends 3,350 hours in their lifetime shaving.
  • 1 in 5 people in the U.S. live with some type of disability.
  • ‘Typewriter’ is the longest word that can be made using the letters on only one row of the keyboard.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first major full-length cartoon film.
  • A decibel is one tenth of a Bel, which was named after Alexander Graham Bell.